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Identification and Creation

Object Number
Other Titles
Former Title: Small Votive Statuette of Herakles
Work Type
sculpture, statuette
5th-2nd century BCE
Creation Place: Ancient & Byzantine World, Europe
Classical period to Hellenistic
Persistent Link

Physical Descriptions

Leaded bronze
Cast, lost-wax process
5.4 x 3.2 x 0.8 cm (2 1/8 x 1 1/4 x 5/16 in.)
Technical Details

Chemical Composition: XRF data from Artax 1
Alloy: Leaded Bronze
Alloying Elements: copper, tin, lead
Other Elements: iron, arsenic
K. Eremin, January 2014

Technical Observations: The figure is a solid cast made in one piece by the lost-wax process. It was very cursorily modeled, and the forms are quite abstracted. The hair is represented by short, straight impressions that could have been made in the wax or metal. It is impossible to say much about the original state of the surface and any decoration because the piece is coated almost entirely with a thick black patina and tan opaque deposits, the latter of which also fills the recesses.

The presence of faceted areas is evidence that this surface covering has been shaved down, exposing a brown-gray metal, which is pitted in some areas and worn smooth to a chocolate brown in others. The figure is missing his proper right forearm and hand, the proper right foot, and the proper left leg below the knee. The endings of these mutilated extremities are worn, not jagged, so it is difficult to tell what caused the damage. Remains of glue, wood, and fibers surround the proper right ankle and are evidence that the piece was previously mounted to a wooden base.

Francesca G. Bewer (submitted 2012)


Recorded Ownership History
W. C. Burriss Young, Cambridge, MA, bequest; to the Harvard University Art Museums, 2002.

Acquisition and Rights

Credit Line
Harvard Art Museums/Arthur M. Sackler Museum, Bequest of W.C. Burriss Young
Accession Year
Object Number
Asian and Mediterranean Art

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Published Catalogue Text: Ancient Mediterranean and Near Eastern Bronzes at the Harvard Art Museums
Herakles stands with his legs slightly spread, left foot forward. He holds his left arm out, over which is draped a stylized, triangular version of his lion skin. His right arm, missing above the elbow, would have brandished a club behind his head (1). The figure is nude, although the stylized grooves on the back of the head may represent a lion skull, which is sometimes seen on Herakles statuettes, rather than hair. The musculature is slightly molded but rather flabby; the figure is rather undetailed with only nose and genitalia indicated.

Statuettes showing Herakles in an attacking stance like this are very common in the ancient world (2). The god may have had a connection with cultivation in early Italy (3).


1. See 1920.44.100 for a more complete version of this Herakles type.

2. See A.-M. Adam, Bronzes étrusques et italiques (Paris, 1984) 180-92, nos. 271-95; and A. Naso, I bronzi etruschi e italici del Römisch-Germanisches Zentralmuseum, Kataloge vor- und frühgeschichtlicher Altertümer 33 (Mainz, 2003) 37-43, nos. 48-61, 63-64, and 66-67, pls. 21-24.

3. S. J. Schwarz, “Herakles/Hercle,” Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae 5.1: 196-253, esp. 197; F. van Wonterghem, “Le culte d’Hercule chez les Paeligni documents anciens et nouveaux,” L’Antiquité classique 42.1 (1973): 36-48; F. Jurgeit, Die etruskischen und italischen Bronzen sowie Gegenstände aus Eisen, Blei, und Leder im Badischen Landesmuseum Karlsruhe, Terra Italia 5 (Pisa, 1999) 56-69, nos. 61-89, pls. 21-28.

Jane A. Scott and Lisa M. Anderson

Subjects and Contexts

  • Ancient Bronzes

Related Works

Verification Level

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